Joel executed the most significant recovery so far in his FIA F3 European Championship career by dramatically turning the tables in the second race of the weekend at Spa, bouncing back to seriously frontrunning pace as he picked his way from 12th on the grid to score an unlikely podium.
With set-up issues plaguing Joel’s weekend in Belgium so far, changes carried out to his Team Motopark Dallara before Race 2 proved right on point, allowing him to stage a fightback drive which ultimately saw him reduce his deficit in the championship standings.
There was a pivotal moment in the race as early as lap one, as Joel managed to avoid any midfield dramas – advancing to ninth on the first tour while title rival (and Race 1 winner) Lando Norris retired after making contact with Guan Yu Zhou at Les Combes.
Joel’s race then came alive for real in the middle stages, with subsequent moves on Nikita Mazepin, Pedro Piquet, Ralf Aron, Jehan Daruvala and front-row starter Callum Ilott hauling him to fourth in swift succession.
As the race drew to a close, Joel was the fastest driver on track, rapidly catching the top three and making a move stick on Jake Hughes for third with two laps to go.
About three seconds ahead, Ferdinand Habsburg simultaneously slipstreamed past Maximilian Günther for the lead – and with the German points’ leader losing pace, Joel then repeated the move on the penultimate tour. In doing so, he significantly ensured he actually improved his championship position in relation to all of his main title rivals, despite his lowly grid slot.
Joel continued to chase down Habsburg on the final lap, but eventually ran out of time to catch the Austrian who went on to claim his maiden FIA F3 European Championship win.
Second place marked more than could have been expected before the race, however, giving Joel plenty of reason to celebrate his seventh podium of the season.
Next session: Race 3, 12.40 local time (GMT+02:00) tomorrow.
“A really great race. It’s been a difficult start to the weekend, but the guys did a great job turning the car around for this one. The grip was on another planet and I had the confidence you need to go quick around here. It’s quite unbelievable to have gone from 12th to second, but apparently it worked! It’s a big relief and hopefully we will be this spot on with the set-up for the final race tomorrow, too.”
RESULTS – Race 2